While the war around critical race theory rages on in classrooms and boardrooms across the country, award-winning journalist and scholar Allissa V. Richardson has her own choice tools for fighting for truth. At the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the instructor has recently founded the Charlotta Bass Journalism & Justice Lab, an initiative to preserve and champion Black media makers, community workers, and social justice activists.
The lab will be the first of its kind at USC as the first media studies center dedicated to archiving, exploring, and sharing the work of individuals and collectives that played both large and small roles in the social justice movements in America. This will include a web archive or articles and other resources, digitized newspapers, magazines, newspapers, photo projects, as well as scanned 3D objects that aid in telling the story of Black West Coast culture.
“The Bass Lab’s pioneering mission bridges traditional journalism with innovative media-making technologies to capture and preserve the many voices of the racial and social justice movements,” USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said. “It will undoubtedly become a primary destination for Black media makers, scholars and journalists.”
Allissa Richardson, the bestselling author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Social Justice #Journalism, will also serve as the lab’s inaugural director.
“When most people think of civil rights, they don’t tend to think of Washington, Oregon and California as hotspots for Black activism — but the Black Press tells us a different story,” said Richardson, associate professor of journalism and communication. “For the first time in history we are building a clearinghouse that will aggregate Black social justice journalism — in all of its formats – while uplifting the voices of the people who made it.”
The lab’s first academic initiative will be the Bass Fellowship, designed to create a pipeline of talented student journalists interested in reporting on social and racial justice to enter directly into the field.
“During the last two years, Black America has lost so many of its history makers — from civil rights leaders, such as Rep. John Lewis and CT Vivian, and socially conscious actors, like Nichelle Nichols and Cicely Tyson,” Richardson said. “There has never been a more imperative time to capture the voices of Black icons who are still with us. When we honor them, we help future generations connect the dots between social movements.”
The Bass Lab takes its honorable name from Charlotta Bass, the first Black woman to be nominated as vice president of a major political party in the U.S. She was also the first Black woman to own and operate a newspaper on the West Coast.
“Charlotta Bass’ pioneering leadership and tireless advocacy for Black people helped establish the culture and makeup of the West Coast that we experience today. Our goal for the lab is to highlight the stories of those who carry on this legacy,” said Myah Genung, the lab’s chief program officer.
The Bass Lab also plans to engage with various media partners to curate relevant academic and experiential programming that reflect its mission.